Solar power R&D: Defining the practical and the future

Solar testing center looks to evaluate the technologies necessary to build optimized sustainable energy infrastructures
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor

Solar power as a sustainable energy technology isn’t new, but the technologies that can be utilized to turn sunlight into usable power involve more than just the panels that collect the energy. The entire infrastructure needs to work as a cohesive whole in order to get the greatest benefit from the decision to use solar, especially on an industrial scale.

The Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) is an organization dedicated to R&D on sustainable energy systems. Though based in Cambridge, MA, where they have a nearby outdoor solar field testing facility in Revere, MA, they have been expanding their research facilities with the construction of test facilities in Albuquerque, NM.


Their new OTF-1 facility is equipped to take advantage of the New Mexico climate, with an average of 310 days per year of sunshine and temperatures that can go from searing heat to freezing cold in the same 24 hour period. More than just photovoltaic panels and their racks and trackers,  the facility is equipped with a full range of inverters, continuous curve tracers, full-scale weather monitoring and state-of-the-art data acquisition systems.

According to Dr. Christian Hoepfner, Scientific Director at Fraunhofer CSE, there is a major need in the industry for information on the actual field performance and durability of both new and existing photovoltaic technologies. With the new OTF-1 facility and the second New Mexico test site that is under development to provide another 5 acres of solar test beds, CSE will be well positioned to provide this data to their clients considering solar as a major component of the sustainable/renewable energy platform.


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